Sunday, March 05, 2017
Jailed for Debt: The (Last?) Great Texas Warrant Roundup
If Rep. James White's HB 1125 - which forbids municipal courts and Justices of the Peace from issuing arrest warrants for fine-only offenses - were to become law, this annual foolishness would end:
Jailing defendants for Class C misdemeanor fines is about revenue generation, not public safety. E.g., here's a recent story of a woman facing jail time for unpaid library fines in Victoria County. As Harris County DA Kim Ogg said this week in another context, "It makes no sense to spend public funds to house misdemeanor offenders in a high-security penal facility when the crimes themselves may not merit jail time. ... These secure beds and expensive resources should be prioritized for the truly dangerous offenders and 'flight risks' who need to be separated from the community."
See a primer on debtors prison practices from the Marshall Project.